When I decided I wanted to relearn how to knit earlier this year my end ambition was to play about with Fair Isle patterns. I'm doing quite well on this score - the colourful stuff is basically easy to do, at least it is when tackling a simple thing like a square (I haven't yet attempted any shaping, following of patterns, or otherwise complicated things). I'm half way through what will be an extremely colourful cushion cover. The motifs I'm using (it will be pictured when I eventually finish it) are more generally Scandinavian than specific to Shetland; traditional Fair Isle uses 5 colours in a design, no more than 2 in any given row, and with no more than 5 stitches between colour changes. The colour changes keep it interesting, it's hard to get lost because you can always see exactly where you are, and altogether it's been very encouraging.
The thing I've found most difficult about it is the something I really didn't expect to be a problem. Choosing colour ways. I had a brief Shetland visit back in March when I bought lots of yarn to play with, this time with longer to think about it I'm buying as much as I think I can squeeze into my case (currently a young sacks worth) in as many shades as I can. This is a way of putting colour together that I need to learn about.
My colour sense is built around dealing with it in blocks and stripes, I like subtle variations and rich but not necessarily bright shades. That doesn't work in Fair Isle type designs. Traditional colours based on available dyes and whatever sheep were wearing that year provide a limited but very effective palate, chemical dyes have however created a world of temptation that requires more thought to navigate.
With this in mind I've forced myself to buy things I'd never normally look at, which I find almost offensive to the eye (I'm looking at the scarlet and very yellow wool particularly) but which I think (hope) might work really well used sparingly in a design. We'll see. Meanwhile I've been buying gloves, both for inspiration and use, and am hoping to master simple lace designs when winter comes.